How Ebola is Transmitted
It is not entirely clear how an Ebola outbreak is initially started. The initial infection is believed to occur after ebola virus is transmitted to a human by contact with an infected animal's body fluids.
The most popular current theory is that bats drop partially eaten fruits and pulp, then land mammals such as gorillas and duikers feed on these fallen fruits. This chain of events forms a possible indirect means of transmission from the natural host to animal populations, which has led to research towards viral shedding in the saliva of bats.
Human-to-human transmission can occur via direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from an infected person (including embalming of an infected dead person) or by contact with objects contaminated by the virus, particularly needles and syringes. The potential for widespread infections is considered low as the disease is only spread by direct contact with the secretions from someone who is showing signs of infection. Because dead bodies are still infectious, local traditional burial rituals may spread the disease. Nearly two thirds of cases of Ebola in Guinea during the 2014 outbreak are believed to be due to burial practices. Semen may be infectious in survivors for up to 3 months.
One of the primary reasons for spread is that the health systems in the part of Africa where the disease occurs function poorly. Medical workers who do not wear appropriate protective clothing may contract the disease. Hospital-acquired transmission has occurred in African countries due to the reuse of needles and lack of universal precautions. Some health care centers caring for people with the disease do not have running water.
Airborne transmission has not been documented. They are, however, infectious as breathable 0.8– to 1.2-μm laboratory-generated droplets. The virus has been shown to travel, without contact, from pigs to primates, although the same study failed to demonstrate similar transmission between non-human primates.
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